Sunday, March 29, 2009


Within my circle of friends tomorrow is somewhat late in coming. I’ve been “young” most of my life… graduated from high school at 17, college at 21, married young, executive at 26, CEO at 35, youngest member of my longtime Friday Forum, youngest member of cabinets, boards of directors, and on and on. It’s been easy to play the “young” card most of my life.

And, the calendar pages keep turning! I’m still the youngest in my Friday morning group, still one of the youngest “old men” at the surf point by that name. And yet…

50 may be the new 40… and it is still a worthy benchmark. A moment in time to reflect and recollect.

Thomas Merton, the great contemplative theologian, pondered on “recollecting” ourselves… the time we take to step back, re-group, and re-connect to our greater purposes. Time to get quiet. To grieve that which wants to be grieved and celebrate that which wants to be celebrated. To be present in this moment and all that it has to bring.

As the page turns, I feel content. A few months ago I was sensing a bit of thickness in the waist and put a scale next to the refrigerator… happy to say that it’s holding at 180. I did laps on Mammoth Mountain's Chair 23 the other day and felt playful and alive… back pain is in check. My sense of purpose… what I was created for… has never been more clear. Relationships with my daughters, family, and friends are vibrant, clean. Work is interesting and sometimes surprising.

My desire is to live in the midst of connected family relationships and a worldwide circle of friends… and to fully experience the joys and pain that life brings. To act decisively in alignment with the man I was created to be and the principles and values I hold.

So, that's my check in at 50. What's your check-in today?



Thursday, March 19, 2009

Difficult Conversations

So, I get asked “How do I approach this difficult conversation?” all the time. Might be about…

…reconciling an estranged relationship…
…broaching a taboo or sensitive subject…
…bringing “bad news”…
…confronting toxic behavior…

Yuck. Wouldn’t it be nice if things just worked out? Well, they do. But, not without some effort. Here’s the structure that I have found works well.

The underlying principle here is to honor your own emotions without being driven by them. In other words, if you’re angry, go beat up a pillow or run some stairs before engaging in the conversation. If you’re fearful, step into a detached position and ask yourself, “what’s really going on here?” and get clean with the fear. And if you’re sad then cry, and then go do something nice for yourself. Once your own emotional wave has begun to subside, you are ready to engage. And, it’s always respectful to ask for permission… “I’d like to bring up a difficult topic. Is now a good time for you?”

Data: Start with the facts in a very “matter of fact” way. Facts are those things that a video camera could record. It’s evidence in the courtroom. And, data is the only thing where agreement is necessary in a difficult conversation.

Story: Figure out the “story you make up” from the relevant set of facts. We all do this, so just own it. For example, “When you show up late, I make up a story that you think I am un-important.”

Emotion: Share your emotional experience, remembering it is best to be able to talk about your emotions as opposed to being driven by them. “I felt angry, and a little afraid.”

Your Part: Consider how you have contributed to the issue and own it too. For example, “I recognize that I could have been clearer about our expected start time.”

Want: Ask yourself what it is you really want for yourself in this conversation. If you are trying to control someone else, you might first want to consider what fear is driving you into a control position and then consider what it is you really want. Often times, what we really want is to just get something off our chest, or to clear the air because our desire is for a clean and authentic relationship.

No matter how someone receives all of this, it’s all your stuff. You are owning yourself and taking 100% responsibility for your emotions, what you make a set of facts mean, your part in the issue, and what you want. All of those are inarguable. No one can tell you “you don’t feel that way”. Sometimes we call these inarguable truths.

So, this is more than a simple post. Frankly, getting clear on this structure and making it a part of my ongoing communication style has changed my life. If you’d like more writing on the topic, post a comment or send me a note ( asking for “Staying the Course when Things Get Tough.”



Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Warrior Move

It’s one thing to miss a summit due to altitude sickness, or not eating well, or dehydration, or suffering mishap and injury, or being turned back by weather. And, it’s another thing to get back on the trail to do it again.

So, when I wrote about altitude sickness and weather turning me back the first two times on Whitney, and only mentioned actually summiting on the third attempt as a passing remark in the post, I took some heat. John wrote,

“…Trying again for the third time when you knew it would be difficult. Overcoming fear when something had already happened twice. Pushing through in a physically painful state but mentally determined to summit. That was the real story. Was it worth it? What did it mean to you personally to be there at that survey cap? More than the one line you gave it. The three of us knew the risk that any one of us could falter and that the success of the group making the summit could be compromised. Each of us was willing to give up the personal achievement goal for the health and safety of the other two. There was a huge dynamic taking place that day among us…”


From a mythical or archetypal viewpoint, summiting with a team is a warrior move. It’s not the sovereign king, or the mystical magician, or the heartbroken lover that stands at the survey cap. It’s the warrior. Clean action deployed with competence and confidence.

Warrior energy brings together skill, desire, passion, and resolve. Clear goals are accepted. Boundaries and rules are honored. Loyalty is given. The clean warrior is neither savage nor victim. The clean warrior is emotionally aware, efficient, effective... and gets the job done.

Am I Listening?

A while back, someone said to me, “Wow, Vince, you’re such a good listener!”  It made me wonder what it’s like to be a bad listener!  So, I ...